Bram Stoker's Dracula is considered one of the most influential Gothic horror stories and has inspired countless adaptations and variations. Before students begin reading the book, it would be helpful to introduce your class to the Gothic genre so they can identify the Gothic elements within the work. An epistolary novel, Dracula is composed of journal entries, letters, and newspaper articles. Students should understand how this format offers different perspectives, adds suspense, and creates a greater degree of credibility.

Dracula is very much a story of its time. Historical background on the Victorian era and the spirit of fin de siècle, or end of the nineteenth century, will allow students to contextualize the work and will promote discussion on how the novel is a response to social and scientific changes. Stoker also relies heavily on Romanian folklore and history, so background on these subjects will be useful.

The novel can be analyzed by the dichotomies it portrays. The most obvious dichotomy is the fight between good and evil, but others include science and superstition, order and chaos, East and West, and virginal versus sexual women. Class discussion can involve how Stoker presents these dichotomies and how Dracula threatens Victorian England.

Summary

Jonathan Harker, an English lawyer, travels through Transylvania, Romania to conclude a real estate transaction with Count Dracula, but becomes a prisoner in Dracula's castle. Meanwhile, Harker's fiancée Mina visits her friend Lucy in Whitby, England, where a mysterious wrecked ship washes ashore. Lucy soon begins sleepwalking and falls ill. Professor Van Helsing, a friend of one of Lucy's suitors, determines that she is under the influence of a vampire. The protagonists then prepare to track down Dracula and stop his evil-doing.

Content Warning

Dracula contains some violence and sensuality.

Objectives for Teaching Dracula

  • Recognize how the structure of this epistolary novel provides readers with several points of view, heightens suspense, and contributes to the novel's believability.
  • Infer information about characters and events that is not explicitly stated.
  • Cite incidents that illustrate that the novel is an example of Gothic fiction.
  • Understand that the attitudes and beliefs of the characters reflect the era in which the story was written.
  • Find passages in the story that illustrate Dracula's sensual qualities.
  • Detail the extent of Dracula's powers and recognize his weaknesses; discuss how Stoker incorporates these strengths and weaknesses into the story.
  • Discuss the role superstition and folklore play in advancing the plot and in the defeat of Dracula.

Key Elements and Techniques

  • Allusion
  • Epistolary Novel
  • Foreshadowing
  • Gothic Fiction
  • Inference
  • Irony
  • Metaphor
  • Personification
  • Simile

Themes and Motifs

  • Good vs. Evil — The protagonists, commonly referred to as the Crew of Light, represent the good of humanity as they battle Dracula's evil darkness.
  • Femininity — The novel looks at the idealized Victorian-era woman, the rise of female independence as women begin to enter the labor force, and the perceived threat of female sexuality.
  • Redemption —  The characters use Christian values and symbols to defeat Dracula, and once the un-dead are granted true deaths, their souls can be redeemed.

Related Works

Theme of Good vs. Evil

 

Theme of Femininity

 

Theme of Redemption

Key Facts

  • Length: 368 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 1070
  • Publication Date: 1897
  • Recommended Grade Band: 11 – 12

Movies

Dracula has been the basis for numerous films. The most well-known film adaptation is the 1931 black and white movie of the same name directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi. It stays fairly true to the book and is appropriate for the classroom.

Your students will love:

  • Discovering the main inspiration for vampires in popular culture
  • The suspenseful Gothic horror

Students may have problems with:

  • The pacing and style of the epistolary format
  • The advanced vocabulary

More Teacher's Guides to Literature:

See all our Teacher's Guides to Literature here.